The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1
Directed by Francis Lawrence
Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Julianne Moore
Based on Suzanne Collins’ best-selling novel trilogy
Yes, Miley Cyrus’ ex is back with his beleaguered friends to strike blows for freedom in the third Hunger Games outing. And so is Jennifer Lawrence. It’s interesting that Mockingjay often takes time to clarify what the hell happened in Catching Fire, the second installment. Mockingjay is superior to that one but even so, it’s no gem. It’s thin, repetitive, and hyped out of all sense and it’s on track to be the year’s best opening.
Previously Katniss (Lawrence) destroyed the games and District 12 then managed to escape President Snow’s clutches. But she left her BFF Peeta (Hutcherson) behind. She is in a bleak District 13 now, preparing to battle the Capitol for freedom. District 13 President Coin (Moore) names here the face of the revolution after some prodding by Plutarch Heavensbee (Phillip Seymour Hoffman). That means recording “propos” or propaganda shorts to fire up the masses for battle vs the Capitol.
Ironically, Peeta now captive in the Capitol is the face of Snow’s tyranny. He records propaganda shorts too, meant to dampen enthusiasm for uprising. Peeta appears just delighted to support Snow and be part of the governing elite. But something’s fishy. It brings to mind the videoed “confessions” of soldiers in Syria. There’s mayhem behind it and furtive expressions to Katniss give him away. Extra impetus to go to war.
Unfortunately, District 13 is woefully undersupplied for war, so new characters with new skills appear, allies for Katniss and Co. including Moore as the steel haired President, and Castor, Boggs, Commander Paylor and Cressida. It’s exciting having new characters dedicated to aiding Katniss’ cause but are reduced to mere symbols, recognized by their identifying garb and markings. Bloodless of course.
The rhythm is distracting and counterproductive, cramming high notes and low, both jolts-per-minute fare with zero breathing space. Every five minutes another crescendo another rallying battle cry, more ruination, less room to breathe. So how does this engage a viewer? For young people raised on videogames, I get it. All action, not causation or human psychology; it’s sterile, jackboot that requires no acting just the ability to only shout or emote obviously.
It’s wearing and superficial and doesn’t require any brain work aside from memorising the Hunger Games mythos. It feels like those wooden medieval adventure movies of the 50’s and 60’s married to a mishmash of videogames – all sound and fury.
Seriously, there is nothing to enrich us – what happens is all reward, no risk, no causation really, no meat. Another sombre Katniss emoting, doing the best she can with this sterile film. It takes an actress with Lawrence’ chops to give this confection any kind of authenticity, but after a while even the almighty J-Law is felled by the wooden weight of this structure. Elizabeth Banks on the other hand offers rare levity and style relief.
The Hunger Games offer complex mythologies to an entire generation, their hero stories, the pop memories they’ll carry along through their lives. It is a “young adult” blockbuster franchise that eschews Twilight romance for battles and the character transformation for state control. And they will make it a hit, there’s no question.